Controversial Permitted Development Rights (PD) for office to residential conversions were introduced by the Conservative Government in 2013. The aim was to create homes quickly by allowing developers to convert offices without going through the normal planning process.
The policy has backfired. Conservative MP Robert Halfon described PD as: “… a policy that is possibly the most ill-thought-out, ill-conceived and subject to the law of unintended consequences, than almost any other policy … over the past few years”.
What’s the problem?
- Developers do not need to comply with normal planning rules – as a result many flats in converted offices are cramped, overcrowded, noisy and poorly ventilated.
- Developers convert occupied offices, not just unused ones, pushing out employers, damaging local economies and leaving businesses to pick up relocation costs.
- Developers do not need to make financial contributions towards affordable homes or community infrastructure, and planning fees are much lower than normal.
How has Enfield been affected by PD?
- Applications to convert around 80 offices have been approved so far – building work has been completed on about half of these.
- 425 flats have been built in offices converted using PD – mostly studio or 1-bedroom units of variable quality – many are very cramped.
- Roughly 30,000 square meters of office space has already been lost – enough to comfortably accommodate over 2,000 office jobs – businesses have already left Enfield and others are likely to follow.
- Council reports show that office workers each spend about £1,500 in local shops and cafes per year. This means local retailers and cafes have already been missing out on sales of around £3 million per year – and this loss will continue to increase as more and more viable office space is lost.
- Enfield has already missed out on over a hundred affordable homes and over a million pounds in infrastructure payments and planning fees.
Unfortunately, Enfield Council is one of the only councils in London that still allows uncontrolled permitted development office conversions – making Enfield a prime target for unscrupulous developers – which is why we’ve been asking them to act.